NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Governors Range From Profligate to Fiscally Responsible

September 20, 2002

In the past 12 years, state budgets have increased by more in dollar terms -- $240 billion -- than they did in the previous 100 years. State spending in the late 1990s grew twice as fast as the federal budget.

Some state governors tried to balance their budgets through steep tax hikes on the rich -- a strategy which left their states in even deeper fiscal holes. Others cut tax rates and saw their economies flourish and revenues rise.

The Cato Institute and the Goldwater Institute have just released their sixth biennial fiscal report card on the nation's governors. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The three governors with the highest scores for fiscal restraint were Republicans Bill Owens of Colorado and Jeb Bush of Florida, and Democrat Roy Barnes of Georgia.
  • The worst taxers and spenders were Don Sundquist of Tennessee, Bob Taft of Ohio, John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Gray Davis of California (who had one of the worst financial performances of any governor in some time).
  • Here are the grades for governors among some of the biggest states: George Pataki of New York, B; George Ryan of Illinois, D; John Engler of Michigan, B; Jane Hull of Arizona, D; and Jim Hodges of South Carolina, D.

An analysis by the American Legislative Exchange Council of state tax policy during the past decade found that the 10 states that cut taxes the most created twice as many new jobs as the 10 states that raised their taxes the most.

Source: Stephen Moore (Cato Institute) and Stephen Slivinski (Goldwater Institute), "Rating the Governors," Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2002.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues